A philosophy professor at Vanderbilt University is teaching an undergraduate course this spring semester called “Police Violence and Mass Incarceration.”
The course involves discussions of recent violence in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City and how the elite, well-off students feel about allegations of police brutality in the deaths of two black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Course readings include the writings of philosophers such as John Locke as well as musings by a bunch of current-day bloggers.
The associate professor behind the course is Lisa Guenther.
Critics of the course include a number of conservative blogs. (It’s not clear if Guenther will assign any of these blogs to students among the blog readings.)
The first blog to condemn the course was Daily Roll Call, earlier this month.
The Nashville chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police has also blasted the course, re-using Daily Roll Call’s description of the class as “an anti-police course.”
Guenther remains undaunted and has suggested that swanky Vanderbilt has been some hotbed of protest activity.
“The students have been very well organized and thoughtful about their response to Ferguson,” she told The Tennessean, Nashville’s main newspaper. “I wanted to respond to this historical moment in the class.”
The professor also appealed to that old professorial standard: Complexity.
“It’s a complex issue with a history,” Guenther told the local paper. “We will explore that history in class from multiple perspectives.”
Additionally, she noted that discussions in the ostensibly serious, college-level course will include a visit from a real, live police officer.
The price for one year of undergraduate tuition, room and board and mandatory fees at Vanderbilt is about $54,600 (not including a $704 “first year experience fee”).
The ritzy school’s endowment of over $4 billion equates to $317,179 per student and is larger than the entire annual gross domestic product of Belize and Liberia — combined.
Vanderbilt also has its own police department protecting students, Guenther, the rest of the faculty and the administration.
Guenther styles herself a radical from behind her desk at the glamorous, ultra-safe school.
She is a signatory of a manifesto entitled Liberate Nashville. A group by the same name is making three completely garden-variety leftist demands — to no one in particular — and has organized die-ins and marches around town.
“Since November 25th, we have used our bodies to decry such injustice on the streets and in shopping centers across our city,” the group’s declaration pronounces.
“On Friday, December 12th, hundreds of students, clergy, and concerned Nashvillians marched through the city after a vigil for Eric Garner and all victims of police brutality,” the document continues. “With tears in our eyes and the names of the slain on our lips, we stood together to declare that Black Lives Matter. We marched together and held die-ins on the cold asphalt, shutting down roads, intersections, and, with the help of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the interstate.”
The Daily Caller notes that the temperature in Nashville, Tenn. reached 50 degrees on Dec. 12, 2014, according to Weather Underground. The average Nashville temperature that day was 41 degrees.
Liberate Nashville’s manifesto also compares modern police officers to “plantation owners” and suggests that the role of police is “to keep the property of the establishment under control and to protect the handful of people.”
The feature image at Liberate Nashville shows a few dozen mostly white people holding up lame signs.
Guenther’s academic writing also includes a paper called “The Most Dangerous Place: Pro-Life Politics and the Rhetoric of Slavery.”
In her spare time, Guenther appears to be a very fervid user of Facebook. Her multitude of likes includes Little Rock Collective Liberation, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Communist terrorist Angela Davis and Occupy The Hood.
The professor also likes The Cato Institute, America’s premiere libertarian think tank.
Vanderbilt University administrators have offered their full support to Guenther.
“Universities have historically been places where the most troubling issues facing society can be discussed and where many points of view are respected,” a school statement obtained by The Tennessean reads. “This elective course is an example of that sort of discussion, in which students will be exposed to many perspectives, including those of police.”